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Why Native English Speakers Don’t Speak Other Languages Abroad (and why they should)

To parler, or not to parler, is that the question? Or, in other words, how do you feel about using another language when you go on holiday?

According to a British Council survey published in this BBC article, there are very mixed feelings amongst those from the UK when it comes to speaking a language abroad. Why is that?

‘Everyone speaks English’

36% of participants in the above survey assumed that everyone would speak English in the country they were visiting. It’s a big possibility, yes, but isn’t there a bit of a thrill about trying to order something in your non-native tongue?

Photo via pexels / pexels

Photo via pexels / pexels



40% of those from the UK surveyed were embarrassed about their language skills, and 25% felt nervous at the thought of speaking another language abroad. True, the first sentence is daunting, but usually locals are so thrilled that you’re trying that they’ll do nothing but encourage you.


It’s a sign!

It’s true that if you are lacking the actual words, often pointing and gesturing will still get you what you want abroad. However, this is not always the case. Do your best chicken dance at the kebab counter and imitate your mouth on fire with a thumbs down; you still might get lamb and more chili sauce than you can handle.


Photo_2 (1)

Photo via Wikipedia / Wikipedia

It’s my holiday and I’ll do (or not do) what I want to!

It’s true. You’re on holiday. It’s your time away from work and trouble, so why would you go to any lengths to stress yourself out or make yourself uncomfortable? Aren’t you here purely for the bliss that is a continuous coastline or a sun lounger by the pool?


Once bitten, twice shy

Of course, it could just be the case that you have an awful memory of doing your best, trying to speak in the local language at the local bar, and instead of getting a pint getting a pina colada. Downhearted, you vowed never to attempt another language again. But you know, it was just one time. It’s worth at least trying once more, don’t you think?


Photo via flickr / flickr

Photo via flickr / flickr

So why should we try speaking another language when on holiday?

There are all sorts of reasons why getting to grips with another language is a great idea.


Making new friends

How about having a sofa in a far off exotic location the world over? How about having a Skype partner, or epenpal, that you can speak to about anything and everything? Doesn’t that sound great?


Holiday romance

It could happen. Your eyes meet across that pina colada (and you’re now thankful that you have something more delicate-looking than a pint) and something just clicks. But if all you can say isor no, you’re going have to rely totally on body language and a wing and a prayer. Which could also be good, thinking about it, but still.



Photo via pexels / pexels


Yes, it’s a holiday, but especially if you’re self-employed, the chance to network should never be turned down. If you don’t speak the local lingo you could be missing out on a huge potential customer base.



Well yes, that is a good reason! If you can have an entire conversation and both understand and be understood, how else would you feel about yourself but proud?


It’s the Brit thing to do

65% of those surveyed by the British Council felt it was important to learn at least a few key words or phrases before travelling. More importantly, isn’t it important to live up to our stereotype of being overly polite?


Photo via Wikipedia / Wikipedia

Photo via Wikipedia / Wikipedia

Over to you

So, the next time you start packing your suitcase, leave the pack of Hobnobs on the bedside cabinet (well…you don’t have to) and instead, drop in a phrase book. Even better, why not take a language course so you can practice a little before you go? Why not contact us and see what courses we have on offer?